The S.C. Ports Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers have finalized a plan to deepen the Charleston harbor. They still need public input and to go through more than a year of a formal approval process. They presented the $509 million project to the public Tuesday night; $343 million from state funds and $166 million from federal funds.
Officials described the deepening as necessary to be able to accommodate the growing size of ships.
“Larger and heavier ships have to wait until tide conditions right. They can’t come in around the clock, for instance at low tide,” Lt. Col. John Litz with the Army Corps said. “The deeper you can make the harbor, the more under-keel clearance you can have and the larger ships we’re expecting to come out of the Panama Canal.
“Ship sizes are growing tremendously,” said Barbara Melvin with the S.C. Ports Authority.
Melvin said the project was about staying relevant. Charleston wouldn’t want to lose steam as other ports, like those in Savannah and Jacksonville, plan deepening projects to attract the new wave of ship technology. Officials said deepening the port to 52 feet will allow just enough clearance.
“What you’ll see with these larger ships is less ships and about the same amount of cargo that come on and off,” Melvin said. “Take the 48 feet the ship needs to transit the harbor, add the four feet of clearance they need so they’re not bumping along the bottom and you get the 52 feet.”
The economic impact resonated with Matthew Seel, who wanted Charleston to maintain a competitive advantage.
“Hundreds of thousands of jobs are tied to the Charleston harbor so if we’re not going to deepen the harbor, someone else will and someone will take those jobs from Charleston,” Seel said.
Others like Edouard Desfrancs worried about the environmental impact on wetlands.
“I just wanted to see how the ports authority was planning to mitigate their impact,” he said.
Officials asked for public input. You can comment here until Nov. 24.
According to the plan, construction would be completed by 2022.
Original article by Stacy Jacobson of ABC News 4